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College of Architecture and Planning

Successful completion of the PhD program requires fulfilling course requirements, passing the comprehensive examinations, preparing and defending a dissertation proposal, and undertaking research, writing and defending a dissertation. This is a multi-year process that involves a close mentoring relationship with the student’s advisor. The Checklist that follows summarizes the major requirements of the program.
A student’s program of study must include:
  • at least 12 credit hours of PhD Program core classes, 
  • 15 credit hours of study in a Major field, and 
  • 9 hours in a Minor field.
The Major and Minor requirements are minimums; the particular field of study may require additional work.
Based on these and other requirements, students shall complete a minimum of 36 credit hours in their Major and Minor fields, and PhD Program core requirements prior to advancement to candidacy. This is the equivalent of four semesters (two years) of coursework. Credit transfers are not allowed. Credits earned from previous courses before the student is accepted to the PhD program cannot be used as credit toward the PhD degree.
Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in all their coursework. A grade of less than B in any PhD Program requirement (Core, Major and Minor) will not be accepted as meeting those requirements. For Program Core courses, the student must retake the course. A Program Core course may only be retaken once. The student will be terminated from the program if a grade less than B is received more than once in a PhD Program Core course.
In addition, students must pass a comprehensive exam as well as write and defend a dissertation proposal and dissertation.
The minimum enrollment requirement at CU Denver for doctoral students is six semesters of full time scholarly work beyond the attainment of a bachelor's degree. No enrollment credits are allowed for an earned Master's degree from another institution. At least four  semesters of credit must be earned for work performed while enrolled at CU Denver.

The doctoral program requires a minimum of two years of residency (not fewer than four semesters enrolled in a minimum of six credit hours each, excluding summer) devoted to
coursework and other preparation for advancement to doctoral candidacy status. Ordinarily, research for the dissertation will also be completed while in residence. After that time, special arrangements can be made with the CAP PhD Committee if substantial work needs to be performed elsewhere.

Students must complete the comprehensive examinations and dissertation proposal within four years from the beginning of their first semester in which they are enrolled as a PhD student at University of Colorado Denver. In addition, University of Colorado Denver requires that all degree requirements be completed within eight years of matriculation.
To remain actively enrolled, students must register for six credit hours or more each academic semester (excluding summer) until they become a doctoral candidate. Students who are not so registered are automatically withdrawn from the University of Colorado Denver and must apply for readmission to the program. The readmission decision will depend on the student’s academic record and progress toward the degree.
Doctoral students must register for a minimum of one hour of dissertation credit in the term of graduation. If all requirements for graduation, including submission of the final approved dissertation, have been completed prior to the last day of registration, and the student was registered for the preceding term, the student may apply for a waiver of the enrollment requirement.

Each student entering the program will have a PhD advisor. Students wishing to change their Advisor should do so during their first year. All appointments of advisors must be approved by the PhD Program Director. Students wishing to change their Advisor after the first year must petition the PhD Program Director for approval.
The advisor guides the student through the completion of the course requirements, the preparation for the comprehensive examinations, the dissertation proposal, and the dissertation. The advisor must have a doctoral degree and be a tenured/tenure-track member of the CAP PhD program.
The Dissertation Advisory Committee provides guidance for the investigated dissertation topic, comprehensive examination, dissertation, and the final dissertation examination.
This committee includes at least three faculty members: the Advisor and two additional members. The members must have a PhD degree and at least one member must be a full-time faculty of CAP. For the comprehensive examination, at least one member represents the student’s major field of study, and at least one member represents the minor field of study.
Membership of this committee may change if the student’s interests and needs change. Any changes should be developed in consultation with the student’s advisor, and must be approved by the PhD Program Director.
This committee consists of a minimum of five members, including the Advisor, the Dissertation Advisory Committee for the dissertation, and at least two additional external members, with at least one from outside the University of Colorado Denver. External members must be full time faculty members in a degree-granting institution and must have PhD degrees.
If the advisor leaves the faculty of CAP before the comprehensive exam and/or thesis topic is approved, the PhD Program Director will work with the student to identify a new advisor for the committee.

If the advisor leaves the faculty of CAP after the comprehensive exam and/or thesis topic is approved, and both the advisor and the student wish to continue in the advising relationship, there will be no change of advisor. The advisor may be appointed as adjunct faculty in the Graduate School, in order to recognize his or her continuing role, with approval of the PhD Program Director.
If a member of the dissertation committee other than the advisor is unable to continue in this role, for any reason, the advisor will work with the student to identify a new member for the committee. Upon accepting to serve in this role, the new member of the committee must sign on the dissertation topic and dissertation proposal documents as they were previously approved.


Students develop their degree plan, take six credit hours of the required Core Curriculum, complete additional courses in their specialty area, and any prerequisite courses.


Students take the remaining core courses, continue to take electives in their minor and specialty areas, begin literature surveys and reviews, and prepare for their comprehensive exam. 

Students complete their specialization papers, prepare a dissertation proposal, complete literature review, and take the comprehensive exam. 

Fourth and fifth years are spent researching and writing the dissertation.



University of Colorado Denver requires that doctoral students, whether enrolled full time or part time, must complete all degree requirements within eight years of matriculation. Students who fail to complete the degree in this eight-year period are subject to termination from the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the program director and concurrence of the Dean. For a student to continue beyond the time limit, the program director must petition the Dean for an extension and include:

  1. reasons why the program faculty believes the student should be allowed to continue in the program and 
  2. an anticipated timeline for completion of the degree. 
Approved leaves of absence do not automatically extend the time limits for earning a degree, but they may be used as a reason to request an extension if needed.

Questions?  Contact Jody Beck, Director of the PhD Program, at or 303-315-2409. Or check the PhD Program Handbook, as many questions will be answered there.

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